Giving up carbon for Lent



[From M.Z. Hemingway at]


One of the things I wish we saw more were casual inclusions of religion in stories about general life. It seems that there’s a lot of compartmentalizing of religion — as if stories are completely secular or they’re pigeonholed as religion news.


So I like the ideas behind theses two stories. The first comes from a U.S. News & World Report blog called Fresh Greens. It covers the “green movement and looks for ways to be an ecofriendly consumer without breaking the bank.” Producer Maura Judkis looks at whether Lent will decrease Catholics’ carbon footprint. She calculates that 354 million pounds of meat will go uneaten during Lent — using the number of registered Catholics and per capita meat consumption.


To put that abstract figure into perspective, that’s the equivalent of to 1.5 million round trip flights from New York to Los Angeles not being taken.


Obviously, I realize that this is not a precise science - more like a game of “What if.” There are plenty of Christians other than Catholics who give up meat for Lent, and there are plenty of Catholics who don’t participate. There’s also the factor of the carbon emissions from fish that many eat on Lenten Fridays instead, which I left out because there are so many kinds of fish that we eat, and each has a different carbon footprint. Either way, Catholics that participate in Lent are automatically lowering their carbon footprint, which is a good thing, since some church officials have urged Christians to give up carbon for the 40-day period.


 I also just thought the blog post was funny in that way that makes you think that sometimes journalists can only understand a Christian spiritual discipline if in coincides with another political aim that journalists admire. I guess it’s a good thing that Lent is politically correct! Still, it’s a funny hook for a Lenten story and a good thing to enter into the “religion of environmentalism” files.


The next story was published on and is headlined “Hired! Going to church to get a job.” Why else would one go to church? It’s actually a cute story with good advice about how unemployed individuals should work their networks to help them get a job. But it has that same tone deaf quality — not quite understanding the sacred aspects of church life.


The story really just follows the steps taken by one unemployed individual, which included attending a church’s free career workshop. Experts say it was a good idea:


Our panel of career coaches agree that Butler was wise to tap into local organizations that could help him brush up on his job search skills and expose him to other job seekers sharing their experiences.


“Church groups are a good way to use existing community connections to expand your network of people,” according to Career and Business Consultant Kathy Robinson. But the danger is that “you could be getting 20-year-old resume advice,” she warned. “As long as the members are keeping themselves current on job search techniques it’s actually a fabulous resource.”


 I confess I don’t quite get this quote. Why would churchgoers be 20 years behind in resume technology?


Still, this is a prime example of how I wish religious life were better incorporated into everyday stories and I’m glad to see it.